Hawthorne Race Course started their spring meet this last weekend and my friend Jeff Furlong and I had the pleasure of visiting this last Sunday. Here are my observations from opening weekend and my trip to Cicero!
The Dirt Oval
The mild Chicago winter has certainly been kind to the South side race track. Without the normal freezing temperatures this time of year the track was in superb condition. Jeff and I got a nice up-close look at the track during race 9 on Sunday and it really did look good. I have to hand it to Greg Cardenas and the grounds crew for their dedication and work on the surface. As for the racing on the track, the early trend is that winners are coming from on or near the lead. Sure, that’s not the case in 100% of the races, but there is a strong correlation in my opinion. The weather has also been conducive to horses staying in the area to train and race. Field sizes did not disappoint on opening weekend as we had 9.89 starters per race! Impressive!
New Wagers and Handle
Starting this spring Hawthorne offered a $0.50 pick 4 to incentivize fans with a yet another new way to wager. This seems to be a popular wager already as Pick 4 pools have been strong, including a late pick 4 pool Saturday of nearly $70,000 due to a carryover from the Friday late pick 4. In fact Hawthorne must be doing something right as handle exceeded $2.1 million in each of the first three days of racing! I even took a crack at the late Pick 4 (and for those of you who know my record with exotics, I’m sure you know the outcome). However Hawthorne’s main man Jim Miller even hit two early pick 4’s over the weekend! I ought to just take his picks! I’m not giving up and I swear I will hit at least one pick 4 by the end of the meet.
And I’m not just talking about ozone! One of the things I love best about Hawthorne is how close regular dudes like me can mingle, talk to, and try to get information from the racing insiders. Just on Sunday Jeff and I visited with chart caller Dave Miller, got to meet race caller Peter Galassi, said hello to good friend Tom Dubrick, tried to poach some inside info from trainer Manny Perez, and we even got to watch a race replay with trainer Tammy Domenosky! Later in the day we stopped to say hello to our jockey friend Chris Emigh and even later that evening we had the pleasure of meeting trainers Chris Dorris and Roger Brueggemann in the heated Hawthorne paddock! How excellent is that?! (…and Chris Russell I’ll catch up with you soon!)
Odds and Ends
- The new TVG signal from Hawthorne is amazing. When I got home from work on Friday I immediately turned on TVG to see how things looked and I was very impressed. The screen was so much clearer than before and Jim’s interview with trainer Joel Berndt was looking sharp.
- The food at Hawthorne is darn good!
- I got a first-hand look at the new box seating going in. There will definitely be major enhancements in fan experience in the near future.
Finally - A Horse of a Different Color
For those of you who have not yet heard, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Illinois Stewards have approved the dyeing of Hansen’s tail and mane should he be entered in the April 7th Illinois Derby! Proceeds would then be donated to various horse racing-based charities. Wow! Hansen, you have my personal invitation to come to Chicago and run at Hawthorne!
What have you liked thus far in the early stages of the spring meet?
Leave a comment below!!